Topic: The impact of market regulations concerning animal welfare on landuse
Increasingly market actors impose regulations on the production process arguing with consumer demands. One recent example is the announcement of a major organic brand of the Austrian supermarket chain “Zurück zum Ursprung” (back to the origin). Within the entire province of Tyrol currently 638 farms supply to “Zurück zum Ursprung”. The brand managers announced in Summer 2018 their supplying farmers have to provide free run for cows all year round for at least 2 hours per day. In the Tyrolean district of Lienz thus since first of October 2018 more than 100 farms were refused to deliver organic milk anymore to the brand. Most of these farms are very small and keep 5 to 7 cows in part time. From 2021 onwards “zurück zum Ursprung” will buy milk only from farms with free run barns. Other organic supermarket brands try to profile in a similar way. The regional chamber of agriculture, being the legal representative of farmers interests, fears that regulations in the organic sector are only the starting point for a general requirement of permanent free run husbandry. Presently in Tyrol more than 2/3 of all cattle (all categories) are kept in tethering, albeit not permanently, but mostly in so called “combined husbandry”. This is a rather new expression for keeping animals in tethering during the winter, but on pastures during the vegetation period, first at the homestead, and later on the alpine summer grazing. This used to be the traditional husbandry form in alpine regions. Retailers argue that animal friendly husbandry (often equaled to permanent free run barns) is of highest priority among customers. However, such a change might have adverse implications on the ecology in mountain areas. Experts argue that as a consequence alpine pasturing will be restricted to young stock (calves and heifers), while dairy cows will be kept permanently in the barn at the homestead. As the herding on alpine pastures of young stock is rather extensive (casual observation from the roadside and providing salt), alpine pastures will be in danger of bush encroachment. Ironically the retailers proposing stricter animal welfare regulations are the same ones boasting preservation of nature, traditional practices and traditional breeds.